What I Have Learned from My Dogs… in Retirement

fox pups posing 051115It was one of the first things I did when I retired from more-than-full-time music teaching and serving as the Performing Arts Curriculum Leader of my excellent school system (Upper St. Clair School District/Western Pennsylvania). Start looking for a dog.

The incredibly hectic non-stop schedule of a husband and wife, both string teachers with a variety of responsibilities, music class assignments, after-school rehearsals, and concerts across numerous buildings, serving as spring musical directors, active music festival and conference participants in our professional groups (PMEA/ASTA), and co-director (wife) or assistant (me) of the marching band – totally precluded having a dog. I think it would have been considered animal abuse. We were never home, except to crawl into bed to fall sleep. That’s the “calling” of a devoted music educator, especially if he/she is passionate about and focused on inspiring and bringing creative self-expression to the students, willingly committing him/herself to countless hours of extra-curricular activities. We are proud of those opportunities that affected so many lives! (Do you remember the theme of that final scene in the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus?”)

dogs_nopretender_IMG_1565It was quite by accident that we “found” our two puppies. (Actually, as most dog owners would attest, they chose us!) We visited the area pet stores, just to peruse all of the animal habitats, beds, toys, treats, and the like… and did not know that one chain store in our area actually sold dogs! Gracie, a pure-bred bichon frise selected my wife, and a yorky-poo we named Brewster picked me! The rest is history… at a high cost (the premium price for the dogs plus two of everything, including duplicate crates, dishes, bags of food, treats, and even toothbrushes). With lots of surprises in store for us, we rescued them from Petland!

dogs_scolded_IMG_1564After 35 years of having to run in and out of the house to travel and fulfill appointments, errands, practices, and performances, all at once I had a reason to stay home and share the unconditional love of owning not one but two “good dogs.”

New retiree “pet chores” were doled out. My wife was in charge of feeding and grooming. I did the lion-share of walks. We both attended “owner training” (they called it “dog training,” but we were the ones who needed to learn how to control our dogs).

For me, walking the dogs has become the most amazingly peaceful and reflective activity. It has improved my disposition, calmed my nerves, sharpened my senses, increased my dogs_walk_IMG_1782capacity for patience and tolerance, and lowered my blood pressure! Yes, between volunteer escorting patients at our local hospital several days a week and exercising the dogs at least four times daily, we add up a lot of mileage… an average of 15,000 steps or 5-7 miles a day!

Something I would never have predicted before my retirement:  I am now getting up as early as 5:30 most mornings… which is before the alarm would go off when I was employed! Of course, this is every day, every week, every season, rain or shine, with few exceptions. Who needs sleep anyway?

You really ought to try taking two warm bundles of fur to bed with you to hug and cuddle. Gracie and puppy moment3Brewster only have temporary residence on the top of our blankets and bedspread, and must later go back to their playpens in the game-room (our former music studio) once we decide to go to sleep. (My dogs are small… I don’t want to “squash them” when I roll over!)

So, who’s the teacher now? The following are a few of the “life’s lessons” I have learned from close observation of my dogs. Consider this a helpful guide for all retired people.

  1. Live enthusiastically in the “here and now.”
  2. Forgive unequivocally and immediately.
  3. Life is all about taking a long walk, smelling the roses (and everything else), bamboozling another treat from “daddy,” and getting my ears scratched or belly rubbed.
  4. dogs_fringe_IMG_1990Whenever possible, fearlessly explore the fringe (almost beyond the reach of the leash).
  5. Relax and snuggle with someone you love as often as possible.
California attorney Mike Vaughn posted several additional “bits of wisdom,” a map for happy and healthy retired living, on his Maritime Law Center website: http://maritimelawcenter.com/html/things_i_learned_from_my_dog.html
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • Never pretend to be something you are not.
  • No matter how often you are scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout… run right back and make friends.
dogs_IMG_1860doggie_heaven_ - 32Tara Mullarkey summed up a few more of the important ones on her blog “7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Dog” (http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7561/7-life-lessons-ive-learned-from-my-dog.htm):
  • We need to play (every day).
  • Love is all there isl

Attention all recently retired persons: If you do not already own a dog or other pet, I strongly encourage you to consider the option of adopting or rescuing a dog! It may be one of the best decisions of your life!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Advertisements

Blueprint for Success – Preparing for the Job Interview

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

New or Prospective Music Teachers – Reviewing the Situation

By now, I hope you have had the opportunity to revisit and reflect on my past blogs about marketing professionalism, pre-interview preparation, tips and techniques on interviewing, development of storytelling skills, and the criteria for selection of the “ideal” school teacher candidate. Please peruse these articles at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/. I recommend starting “at the bottom” of the page with the oldest blog (July 1, 2015) and progressing towards the present.

Pay particular attention to the outline posted on July 8: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/overview-strategies-for-landing-a-music-teacher-job/. In summary, it is important for you to complete the following steps:

  1. Complete a thorough self-assessment.
  2. Assemble artifacts of your professional activities.
  3. Formulate a philosophy of music education.
  4. Familiarize yourself with current educational jargon.
  5. Compile a set of detailed professional anecdotes based on your positive attributes.
  6. Create/revise your résumé, interview handouts, electronic portfolio, and employment website.
  7. Research the school district, music program, job opening, and unique local curricular innovations.
  8. Develop appropriate and insightful questions to ask the interviewer.

empty-interview-1180616Next, the purpose of this blog is to provide the “nitty-gritty” for you to practice and drill answering common interview questions. This material is suitable for individual prepping or group mock interview sessions, and to assist in the formation of meaningful stories/anecdotes that would support a specific candidate’s mastery of each “core teacher standard.”

Music educators have experience in “music performance.” All aspects of excellent delivery of responses to these sample questions should be explored… good vocal tone, clear diction, clarity and organization of thoughts, a calm but engaging attitude, poise, professionalism, and self-confidence in front of an audience, and demonstrations of competency, critical thinking and problem solving towards a smooth, well-practiced interview – the most important “performance” of your career.

What to Expect – Types of Interview Questions

According to Alison Doyle at http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewsnetworking/tp/types-of-interview-questions.htm, “You’ll be asked about your employment history, your ability to work on a team, your leadership skills, your motivation, as well as other interview questions related to your skills and abilities.”

As a music teacher, expect inquiries from these general categories:

Special Interviews and Screening Procedures

NAfME published an online article “Music Education Interviews” and shared the following. Click here for an excerpt of the 2014 article (no longer available on their website): NAfME – Music Education – Interviews

nafmeSome schools are utilizing special techniques to pre-screen applicants. For example, the Gallup Teacher Insight Assessment is an online interview subscription tool for school districts. It uses a combination of question types that includes multiple choice scales (strongly agree, strongly disagree, etc.) and open-ended essays. A computer scores the essays by looking for “keywords” and then compares the scores on all questions to the scores of outstanding teachers, before sending the results to the school. Sample questions include:

  • How would you plan a lesson to reach both auditory and visual learners?
  • How would you incorporate different cultures in your classroom?
  • Why did you want to become a teacher?
  • After school, you come across a student whom you know who is crying. He’s 16 years old. You ask him what is the matter, and he says he was caught cheating. What would you do?
  • One member of a team working on a curriculum project isn’t pulling his or her weight. What would you do?
  • How would your co-workers describe you?

Other similar tools are available for administrators to use to determine various aspects of your personality and philosophy of teaching. These tools, similar to the Gallup Assessment, look for keywords in your responses and provide the administrator with a “pass” or “fail” rating scale for each question….

In rare cases, savvy administrators may ask you to “audition” for a position. This could include having you teach a sample class, conducting an ensemble, sight-reading a musical selection on an instrument, or playing the piano. You may also find yourself being interviewed by a committee of music students and parents. Be prepared.

One Evaluative Rubric

Job_interview_0001From the Assessment Criteria for Teacher Candidates (developed by Upper St. Clair School District Superintendent Dr. William Pope, Human Resource Director Ms. Jean Toner, and other staff), specific skills/behaviors/”core teaching standards” may be assessed at an interview, soliciting ratings of “Unsatisfactory,” “Satisfactory,” “Good,” or “Superior.” To see a sample of the rubric, click here: 7000.1 Professional Rating Form

Instructional

  • A. Educational Philosophy
  • B. Knowledge/Experience
  • C. Classroom Management
  • D. Technology
  • E. Oral Expression
  • F. Written Communications

Professional

  • G. Leadership
  • H. Teamwork
  • I. Judgment
  • J. Problem Solving
  • K. Planning & Organizing
  • L. Innovation

Personal

  • M. Initiative
  • N. Dependability
  • O. Adaptability
  • P. Self-Insight and Development
  • Q Energy and Enthusiasm
  • R. Appearance

Sample Music Teacher Employment Questions

6028366401_90f47624db_b(for study and practice, listed by core teaching standard, above USC criteria A through Q or “most popular”)

Most Popular

  • 1. Who had the greatest influence on you to become a music teacher and why?
  • 2.  What are the most important qualities of an outstanding educator?
  • 3.  What is your personal philosophy of student discipline?
  • 4.  How would you assess the learning in your classroom/rehearsal?
  • 5.  What purpose does music education serve in the public schools?
  • 6.  What is the importance of professional development and how will you apply it to your career?
  • 7.  What are your personal goals? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  • 8.  How do you recruit students to “grow” a music program?

A – Educational Philosophy

  • A1.  Concerning music education, what is your philosophy and mission?
  • A2.  What is your view of the teacher’s role in the classroom?
  • A3.  What is most important to you (and why): music content, outcome, or process?

B – Knowledge/Education

  • B1. Describe a successful lesson plan you have developed.
  • B2.  What units would you plan for __th grade general music?
  • B3.  List a few selections you might program on a choral (or band or string) concert.
  • B4.  What steps would you take to teach someone how to improvise?
  • B5.  How do you get a child to match pitch?

C – Classroom Management

  • C1.  What rules and expectations would you establish in your classroom?
  • C2.  How will you control behavior in large ensembles?
  • C3.  How would you deal with a difficult student who has gotten off-task?

D – Technology

  • D1.  How will you incorporate the use of technology in your classroom?
  • D2.  How have you utilized technology to assist in instructional preparation?
  • D3.  Summarize a list of software programs and other technology you have mastered.

E – Oral Expression

  • E1.  Describe your strengths in oral communications and public relations.
  • E2.  How would you disseminate information to the students in support of your daily lesson targets?
  • E3.  Provide sample announcements you could make at an a) open house or b) public performance?

F – Written Expression

  • F1.   Discuss your strengths in writing and/or written communications.
  • F2.   What role does the Common Core have in general music (or music ensembles)?
  • F3.   Describe your last or favorite college essay or article on music or curriculum.

G – Leadership

  • G1.  Describe your leadership style.
  • G2.  What actions would you take to get a group of peers refocused on the task at hand?
  • G3.  Illustrate your role in a group project or collaborative assignment.

H – Teamwork

  • H1.  How would you involve students in the decision-making or planning of your classes/ensembles?
  • H2.  How would you involve parents in your music program?

I – Judgment

  • I1.    How would your musical peers describe you?
  • I2.    How do you typically model professionalism and judgment dealing with conflict?

J – Problem Solving

  • J1.    How do you differentiate and teach to diverse levels of achievement in your music classes?
  • J2.    Describe a difficult decision you had to make and how you arrived at your decision.
  • J3.    How will you accommodate students who want to participate in both music and sports?

K – Planning and Organization

  • K1. How do you insure that long-term plans and music objectives are met?
  • K2. Illustrate a typical musical (or marching band or ensemble) production schedule.

L – Innovation

  • L1.   How would you structure a general music (or ensemble rehearsal) classroom of the future?
  • L2.   Share an anecdote about a new or innovative teaching technique you have used in music.

M – Initiative

  • M1. Describe a project you initiated (or would initiate) in your teaching or extra-curricular activity.
  • M2. What motivates you to try new things?
  • M3. How much time outside the school day should a music teacher be expected to work?

N – Dependability

  • N1.  How would you define professional commitment in terms of music education?
  • N2.  What after-school activities do you plan to become involved?

O – Adaptability

  • O1.  How do you cope with stress?
  • O2.  How do you manage shifting priorities or changing deadlines?

P – Self-Insight/Development

  • P1.  Why did you choose to become a music teacher?
  • P2.  In your own music-making or teaching, of which are you most proud (and why)?
  • P3.  If you could write a book, what would the title be?

Q – Energy/Enthusiasm

  • Q1.  What hobbies or special skills do you have which may influence your future activities?
  • Q2.  In what extra-curricular activities did you participate at the HS and college level?

Now, it’s up to you. How do you improve your interviewing skills? How do you better your chances of getting a job? Practice, practice, practice!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox